Moms’ Night Out (PG). Kids
8 and older may be diverted by the adventures of a stressed-out mom in this faith-infused comedy, saved from retro blandness by a solid cast, some decent laughs and low-key talk about faith that doesn’t get preachy until the end. Allyson is a hyperextended mom, overwhelmed by her kids. Her nice husband urges her to go out for a night with her friends. She and her bestie, plus their pastor’s prim but kindhearted wife, head to a trendy eatery, leaving the kids in the care of their dads. The result: A baby belonging to Allyson’s sister-in-law goes missing at a tattoo parlor; the dads and kids wind up at the emergency room; and Allyson and her friends land in jail. After a chat with a wise tattoo artist, Allyson renews her faith in God, her family’s love and her job of caring for them.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The preacher’s wife is accidentally tasered by a cop. Some children younger than 7 may find it unsettling to see a mother so frantic and to see adults misplace a baby.
Million Dollar Arm (PG). Kids 12 and older who’ve played Little League and love professional baseball and sports in general may be drawn to this reality-based story. That noted, it takes its time getting told, and there are a lot of grown-up heart-to-heart chats that kids will have to listen to along the way. Struggling sports agent J.B. Bernstein (Jon Hamm), his business on the line, risks everything to hold a public search for pitching phenoms in India, where cricket is very popular. The first few hundred contestants barely throw 45 mph pitches, but eventually J.B. finds Rinku and Dinesh, two young men with real potential. He brings them to the United States without grasping the culture shock they’ll feel. He shows impatience when they don’t learn baseball instantly; it’s all about him and the risks he’s taking. J.B.’s tenant and love interest, Brenda, tells him he must mentor and protect these young men.
THE BOTTOM LINE: It is implied that J.B. and Brenda spend a night together, but we only see a kiss. There is other mild verbal sexual innuendo. Characters drink.
Godzilla. Monster movie fans
13 and older can feast their eyes on this effects-laden, narratively murky update of the 1954 Japanese classic, in which Godzilla battles two monsters that look like human-cockroach hybrids. (Teens prone to nightmares and reptile phobias should skip this one.) The movie opens with a prologue set in 1999: A mine in the Philippines collapses, revealing weird fossils, then a nuclear plant in Japan collapses because of underground tremors. The plant’s American boss loses his wife in the disaster. Fifteen years later, their son is a bomb disposal expert in the Navy. He reconnects with his dad, who is certain that whatever destroyed the nuclear plant is back. They investigate and get caught up in a new crisis: Two monsters of indeterminate origin are feeding on nuclear energy and have awakened Godzilla.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Skyscrapers, railroad tracks and bridges are smashed, aircraft carriers upended and humans killed. It’s all pretty gore-free, computer-crafted and dimly lit, thanks to the 3-D format. Many children are shown at risk. Characters use rare mild profanity.
Chef. Big-time Hollywood director-producer Jon Favreau returns to his indie roots with “Chef,” an always engaging, if meandering and somewhat self-indulgent foodie comedy. It should appeal to teens 15 and older who enjoy reality cooking shows or father-son sagas. The level of profanity makes “Chef” less appropriate for middle-schoolers. Favreau plays Carl, a successful chef at an upscale Los Angeles restaurant. He loses his job when he tries to deviate from the tired menu the owner wants. Then Carl’s emotional public attack on a restaurant critic goes viral and he finds himself unemployable. Carl and his young son, who craves more attention from his dad, spruce up a grungy food truck and, joined by another refugee from Carl’s former job, start serving up Cuban sandwiches and other fare to rave reviews as they drive the truck from Miami to L.A.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Strong profanity with many F-words warrants the R. Characters also drink, make crude jokes, and in one scene, smoke a joint. There is understated but frequent sexual innuendo.
The Double. This riveting adaptation of a Dostoevsky novella, updated with many nods to Orwell and Kafka, should fascinate film buffs 17 and older. Timid Simon James (a terrific Jesse Eisenberg) works as a clerk in a huge bureaucracy in an unnamed authoritarian state. He toils away, unnoticed by his bosses. At home, he trains a telescope on the building across the road, spying on Hannah, a girl from work whom he adores. A new employee (Eisenberg again) joins the department. He is the spitting image of Simon James, except that he is called James Simon. He is confident, ambitious and amoral. Simon becomes understandably paranoid as the plot’s web weaves in on itself.
The bottom line: The script contains multiple uses of the F-word and an ethnic slur. A recurring suicide theme involves fatal jumps and pill overdoses. Implied sexual situations involving the evil twin James are numerous but not explicit. Understated violence near the end involves some blood.
Horwitz is a freelance writer.